Milwaukee Buck’s star and Chicago’s own, Jabari Parker opens up about how temptation to live a better than average life almost took him from the hardwood to the corner with The Bigs. (John Alexander/The Bigs Visuals}
Chicago’s own, Jabari Parker is living a hoop dream.
Born and raised in the South Shore area on Chicago’s south side, Jabari is the son of former NBA player Sonny Parker. He was ranked as one of the top two basketball players in the nation while rocking the yellow and blue of the Simeon Wolverines and was the star of the 2014 Duke Blue Devils. He entered the NBA as the #2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
But even he couldn’t escape the temptation to ditch the court life for the street life.
At the South Side YMCA for the taping of “An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility, and Violence”, Jabari Parker told The Bigs that during his senior year of high school at Simeon Career Academy, after a broken foot threatened to change the direction of his basketball career, he considered both a life of drug dealing and robbery.
“My doctor kept telling me that my foot might not get better anymore and you might not be able to play basketball.” Parker told The Bigs. “From that point on, it gave me a little more temptation to sell drugs. It gave me more temptation to steal, rob, and to make a quick change.” Jabari continued.
Growing up on the south side of Chicago, a young black male considering a life of crime as a means to have a quick come up are far from uncommon but at the same time, most children growing up on Chicago’s south side don’t have Jabari’s long list of accomplishments on the basketball court.
So, what was it for Parker that made him feel like the risk of committing crime began to outweigh the hope of a promising basketball career?
“I didn’t just want to be mediocre.” Parker told The Bigs. “I didn’t just want to work at a McDonald’s or a “work behind the desk” job for the rest of my life. I wanted to make an impact. Make a change. I wanted to see the glory because I saw it on TV every day.”
You know… The cars. The clothes. The women. The money. For most kids in the neighborhoods like the one Jabari grew up in, “The Glory” is the only thing they see with very few legit paths that lead to obtaining these material things.
Their vision is blurred.
Through that blurred vision, only two paths to “The Glory” are clear. A career in professional sports or a life in the streets. The former, though some may consider unrealistic in terms of making it to the NBA, NFL, or MLB, offers an opportunity for the individual to learn basic life skills that can translate into being exposed to other career paths.
The latter, I call it “learning like Tim”, the Harda(er)-way. This path further blinds the individual until either the ills of life in the street have caught up to them or someone close to them.
This theory proved true for Andre Hamlin, who also served as a panelist for “An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility, and Violence” and now works as a body guard for former Chicago Bull and south side Chicago native Derrick Rose.
“I was shot in ‘91’.” Said Hamlin when asked when he decided to leave the streets and use his unfortunate experiences to help others caught up with life in the streets. “I was shot in the neck and chest and my best friend was killed.” Hamlin continued.“I was eighteen and I went back to school. I had to make a change.”
Like Hamlin, an education might have saved Jabari Parker’s life. “Luckily what saved me was being positive and my education.”
Jabari is striving to be visible to this generation of youth whose vision has been blurred for far too long. Through is presence in his hometown of Chicago and his efforts to show the next generation that there are indeed paths to a better life that don’t include life on the street, he can breed a much needed new sense of hope.